NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Zoo officials in New Orleans are delighted that their endangered African painted dogs have had 10 pups, but you can't say it was an "arfy" birthday. The wild dogs squeak, twitter, cackle, chatter and hoot, but they don't bark.

The puppies were born Sept. 11 to 4-year-old Siena, who joined 9-year-old father Pax 16 months ago, The Audubon Zoo said in a news release Friday.

The littered ventured outside and was ready to greet Audubon Zoo guests for the first time Tuesday.

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Also called African wild dogs, the species is called "painted" because their short coats are patched with red, black, brown, white and yellow. They have long, bushy tails, short, powerful jaws and large, rounded, upstanding ears.

A leader of breeding efforts said in an Audubon Zoo news release that the pups have surpassed expectations because all 10 are still alive.

"There are approximately 112 African painted dogs in 37 North American zoos which makes every birth very important," said Christina Gorsuch, the curator of mammals for the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. "Pup survival rate is about 52 percent ... So the fact that Sienna had 10 pups and all 10 have survived is definitely something to celebrate."

 

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The International Union for Conservation of Nature says major threats to the painted dogs include habitat fragmentation, conflict with people, and infectious disease.

It estimates that about 6,600 of the dogs exist in the wild, but only about 1,500 are considered "mature" animals able to reproduce. That's because most members of any pack are offspring of a lead male and female. When one of those "alphas" dies, packs often disintegrate because the pack doesn't include any unrelated potential mates, according to the IUCN website.

"Currently, the family is bonding in their indoor den before venturing outside," the zoo's news release said. "Guests will be able to sees the dogs roaming their habitat in the near future."